Heroic DJ Finally Stumbles a Bit, Making Him All the More Endearing

With a run of stunningly adventurous mix CDs (like this year's At the Controls) and recent remixes that profoundly rethought Madonna, Depeche Mode, and lesser-knowns like Andre Kraml all under his belt by his mid-twenties, it's strangely satisfying that producer and DJ James Holden has at last made a misstep with his completely underwhelming debut album. Great title aside, The Idiots Are Winning is sadly boilerplate: laptop-techno-styled sonic disjuncture, disco-era analog sounds like bare handclaps, and the epic song structures of prog-house. It also suffers from being overly clever (there's a track called "Intentionally Left Blank" that's just several minutes of silence), as well as irksome, irritating in-jokes—late in the album, Holden adds a thin percussive stomp to "Idiot," an earlier track, and simply re-dubs it "Idiot Clapsolo." But Holden's failures here are not only forgivable but welcome, particularly after his spectacular, near-heroic DJ sets in Europe this summer, which were traded on the Internet like Phish bootlegs (you can hear many of them at mnmlbeats.wordpress.com). Idiots proves that, to evoke that last, lame Daft Punk record, Holden is human after all.

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